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The Weekly Might Have Missed List (06/28/09)

poppinsTheater Loop — ‘Mary Poppins’ breaks down in Chicago; Nanny stuck in no-fly zone

A computer central to the new touring production of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” malfunctioned about 15 minutes into Saturday night’s Chicago performance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, causing the entire show to be shut down and the frustrated audience sent home.

[A couple of the article’s comments seem to focus on the fact that there should have been a backup system in place. Brings to mind BML Principle #1: If you can’t do without it, make sure you won’t have to.]

Speak Schmeak — How to aggravate your audience

Audience members became more and more agitated, yelling out, “We can’t hear you!” and “Louder!” It didn’t seem like the officials even understood what was going on. A sound person would periodically run up on stage and fiddle with the sound system, then go back and sit down, but nothing changed.

Control Geek — Virus Check Fail

Chapter 4 of my book is System Design Principles and one of the things I talk about in that chapter is the impact of virus checkers on the computers we use for live shows.  And here’s why…

Open Loops — Presentation Mistakes: The View From the Audience

Know how to work your equipment – Don’t turn off your own digital projector in the middle of your presentation due to your own incompetence.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (06/21/09)

FAILBlog: Theater Fail

Theme Park Rangers: Celebrate a Dream Come True nearly washed away

I have never seen a parade disintegrate before my eyes, but that’s what happened in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Thursday when I watched the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade nearly wash away. … The princess float got stuck halfway down Main Street. I don’t know if that was because the street was so flooded or just an unfortunate coincidence, but by the time I squished down there, it was stopped dejectedly, Goofy and Donald’s finale float trapped behind it — and the rest of the parade was no longer in sight, having high-tailed it past the castle and into Frontierland. [Nicely detailed story. Includes photos.]

Webinar Wire — Webinar Public Chat: Be Careful What You Ask For

I just finished attending a webinar that at least by certain measures was an unmitigated disaster.

Backstage at BackstageJobs.com — A final thing about the Tonys and Bret Michaels

In a one-time performance with minimal rehearsal, any scene changes should be watched carefully for anyone out of place, or any scenery endangering anyone.  Awards shows and one-time events never go exactly as planned, which is why they are always more difficult than a show done night after night.  Someone should have been watching, and someone should have stopped the piece.

controlbooth.com — What to do when waiting for a show to start

I check cues, stay on headset to make sure nothing comes up preshow backstage electrics-wise, make sure that no one tries to use the internet on the show control computer that runs sound and sometimes MIDI (this has come so close to having very bad consequences before), and surfing the internet on my laptop which is next to the console.

Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog — PowerPoint Tip: Reformatting a presentation

What should be easy turns into a nightmare with content moving all over the place and hours spent reformatting each slide by hand.

Friday Freebie: “My bosses were frozen in shock”

A recent comment on a Reddit posting:

At my company, we had some guy from another come in to go over some things with the bosses and a few key people. After his presentation, they turned off the projector, and he whipped out a dry-erase marker and started writing notes on the white board for everyone while my bosses were frozen in shock. When one of them could finally speak again, he let the man know he was drawing on our rather expensive projection screen.

The same thread also had a solution to the problem:

You can erase “permanent” marker ink by first coloring over it with ink from a washable marker. The two are essentially the same, but the latter has an extra solvent that makes it possible to remove.

Rick Pillars: Crash Into Me

Veteran AV pro Rick Pillars, (It’s a Rap Productions) sent in a great story:

©iStockphoto.com/DivaNir4a

©iStockphoto.com/DivaNir4a

Once upon a time I supplied audio visual labor to clients both locally and from all over the nation. We had some interesting times. This one time we were setting up a pretty large show. The union labor that was supposed to set up the set never showed. So, I was asked to get some labor quickly. I did the best I could and we were successful.

What makes this story take a twist though is what happened during the set-up. During the actual production, the CEO of the company was going to come busting through a styrofoam set off to the side on a rare and vintage Harley, drive up a ramp onto the stage, act like he was using Bond like karate moves on a couple of stuntmen and rescue the fair maiden. Then he was going to get back on the bike and ride out through the audience. Sounds good right?

With a room full of techs of various sorts and set builders and lighting personnel and other folks as well, he decided to have an impromptu rehearsal. No one knew but him and a few other people. Work was not called to a halt in order to give him room. Gear was not picked up and moved out of the way.

I walked out of the room as he began his rehearsal and came back in just as he was about to head down off the stage. I was walking towards my projectionist to tell him something when I heard the roar getting louder. I look to my right and here comes this motorcycle heading straight for me. I had a few seconds to think about what I was going to do. I chose to stand still like a deer caught in the headlights. My thinking was that he wouldn’t know which way I was going to go and we had a 50/50 chance that he was veer into me whichever way I went. I figured once he saw me not moving either forward or backward he would adjust and flow around me either way.

Uh uh, instead he just laid that beautiful bike down on it’s side and let it skid towards me. At that point I calmly stepped out of the path. He jumped off and with it still in gear he began yelling at me about not moving out of the way. I explained my reasoning and it shut him up, but I still got an angry look as he stalked off.

I asked the bike’s handler about it just to see if I did the right thing, and he said that I had nothing to worry about. I did act correctly. He said that if anything, the CEO should have never managed to get it into 3rd gear in such a crowded room and that he would be paying for the damages. There were big long set screws laying all over the place as well as AV equipment and quite a few people. He could have seriously hurt someone or himself.

You’ve got to give the CEO credit, at least he had enough sense to know he needed to get some rehearsal in. Of course he might have just wanted more time on that sweet vintage bike. Wonder if he would have been as anxious to rehearse if it involved some high-powered PowerPoint rather than the rescue of a fair maiden. In any case the rehearsal he did get would have been a lot more useful if time had been taken to plan things out, to clear the decks, and to make the environment he was working in as much like the actual show conditions as possible (remember Principle #3: If you practice like it’s the real thing, the real thing will seem like a practice). Maybe the spill he took actually made him more cautious during the actual event and saved some lives. Maybe it just made him more nervous and everyone was lucky there wasn’t a repeat performance.

As intense as meetings can get, most of us will never face a situation that threaten us with bodily harm. Did you ever find your self in a situation that had your life flashing before your eyes while in the line of duty?

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (06/14/09)

Strelitzia — Wardrobe Malfunction

©iStockphoto.com/sampsyseeds

©iStockphoto.com/sampsyseeds

In back? There were buttons in the back? I craned my neck to see and then turned to look back into the hall mirror. Oh my. Apparently there were buttons in the back, from the waist to the hem. The dry cleaner had unbuttoned every single one of them to facilitate ironing. And failed to button them back.

Fortify Your Oasis — Presenting: they shouldn’t notice your technology

On the other hand, Mr Obama’s detractors have a point – not because he relies heavily on the Prompter, but because he doesn’t use it very well and, for his less-than-soaring rhetorical moments, that can distract from his message. I haven’t noticed him ‘blow it’ on the prompter during an important speech, but his ping-pong head movement does become noticeable when I see him doing minor stuff under the 24 hour glare of coverage.

Excellence in Presentations — Multiple speakers in a presentation

Those invited speakers would talk as if the other speakers never existed even though all of these environmental laws are related. They would show up 15 minutes before their own presentation and leave right after it. They had no idea what came before and after them. The end result was a series of totally disjointed and unconnected presentations that was confusing to the audience.

Fleeting Glimpse Images — Who says you can’t take it with you? The crew!

It seems like weekly there is a televised news story of passengers being evacuated from an airplane. No matter what the problem, if an emergency evacuation of a plane is ordered, you must leave behind any of your carry-on luggage stowed under the seat or in the overhead compartments. Unless you are careful, this also includes leaving your data behind.

Nick Morgan — Announcing the Worst Conference Experience Ever Contest

The contest begins with this posting and will run through the end of next week.  Entries must be 200 words or less, and my decision is final.

So bring it on.  Was it a memorably bad speaker?  A particularly stupid theme or breakout session?  A location?  An audience?  What made the experience awful?  Dish it out, and we’ll compare notes as they come in.  It’s time to raise the game by punishing the evil-doers.

Suzanne Neve Events — Rain, Rain Go Away!

Rain or shine, it is important to be prepared for anything that mother nature may throw at you on your big day. Below are some ideas to help with your planning.

FAIL Blog — Demonstration Fail

YouTube — Bret Michaels Gets “Dropped” at Tony Awards

F Minus: Balloon Drop

Another one of those situations where a good rehearsal would have helped

F Minus

Thanks to Richard Garber of Joyful Public Speaking for the heads up.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (06/07/09)

wedding

©iStockphoto.com/Norlito

So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager… — I STILL Want To Get Married Outside

Wait until she gets the bill from the DJ that she forced to setup his equipment in the damp wedding garden. His extension cords sat on the rainy grass and kept blowing the circuit breaker and finally burnt out one of his speakers.

The Webinar Blog — Bad Press For Webinars

When I work as a guest speaker or moderator, I typically use two computers and two phone lines. It’s ridiculous overkill and seems silly… Right up until the first one fails. That doesn’t happen very often at all, but if you do enough webcasts, it eventually will.

Pro Humorist  — How Room Design May Affect Your Presentation

You also want to make sure that you’re not involved in the opposite extreme of speaking in an atrium or, even worse, outside. I did in a gig in a atrium once and it was like being in a huge greenhouse. Hundreds of plants everywhere, running water and… swimming fish; I wish I was exaggerating. The danger with a place like this is that there are too many distractions for the audience. Not only that but due to the spaciousness, lack of seating and super high ceiling the laughter didn’t exactly contage.

Speak Schmeak — Awkward

Upon receiving her award for Best Female Performance, she proceeded to give her acceptance speech, clearly nervous. While balancing the heavy award in her hand, she lost her grip and it went flying several feet onto the floor as she desperately tried to catch it.

Presenting Matters — Presentation Mishaps: The Mental Game of Bouncing Back

We have all been there… You work hard to prepare for the big day. The success of the moment rests on your shoulders. You are focused and determined to make this presentation powerful and persuasive. And then… something goes terribly wrong. It doesn’t work out the way you anticipated. You leave bewildered and in shock at the disappointment. What now?

todmaffin.com — Whistler help needed urgently!

Agh! I just arrived in Whistler to give a presentation tomorrow morning and en route my MacBook Pro died.

controlbooth.com — Monkey Walk

1. n – A final check of a facility done before leaving to make sure you’ve packed up all your gear. The idea is that you walk through the facility and touch/ pick-up / move everything to make sure something isn’t hiding, just like a curious monkey.
usage– ” Ok we’re packed! Let’s do the monkey walk.”

Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog — PowerPoint Tip: Equipment to carry when presenting

None of these items are high-end technically, but they are three of the most valuable items I carry in addition to the normal items presenters carry. Think back over your own experiences and see how often one of these pieces of equipment would have been valuable to have. Now you know why I carry them – and suggest you may want to as well.

Presentation Zen — Presentation Zen Design (the book)

As I mentioned before, I’m in the beginning stages of writing and designing another book, this one called Presentation Zen Design. For many of us, there is a hole in our education when it comes to communicating visually, and knowledge of even the basics of graphic design is missing for most people. This book intends to do its small part to help fix this problem by focusing on concrete graphic design principles and techniques in the context of presentation design, though the concepts and knowledge can be applied to other areas of one’s professional life.

FAIL Blog — News Clip Fail

I wish you hadn't said that...

Examples of what you might call “unintentional foreshadowing”:

  • plugWe don’t need to tape down that extension cord, no one’s going to be going over there.
  • It’s a brand new projector, why should we spend that much money on a backup bulb.
  • They had a pipe burst the last time we did a meeting there. There’s no way anything like that can happen again.
  • Don’t worry, this guy is really good, he doesn’t need rehearsal.
  • Of course she’s using the slide template you sent.
  • Does Sharpie make a dry erase marker?
  • Just leave it there, no one is going to mess with it.
  • I’m sure it’s safe to use indoors.
  • Don’t worry, it’s supposed to do that…

Phrases like these can create a sense of foreboding and doom for anyones who has been in the business for a while. Have you ever said, or been within earshot of someone else saying, something that turned out to more than a little unfortunate?

Apparent Disinclination

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

~Douglas Adams